Whenever a new generation of consoles appears, there is talk of the expected leap in graphics. We’re talking teraflops, new lighting effects, and the fantastic millions of polygons that will fly around your ears. We rarely hear of developments or even revolutions in mass storage. With the triumph of SSDs in the PC segment, the last leap came some time ago. With the new consoles – Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 – this should now change. In a way that means more than just removing loading screens.

In fact, the PC has long since taken another generation leap in terms of mass storage from normal SSDs. With the NVMe standard in the space-saving M2 format, today’s gaming PC storage media have been running for a long time, which – at least in theory – is much faster. For example, the Western Digital Black SN750, which the manufacturer sent us for testing. Ideally, it reads up to 3470MB / s sequentially and writes sequentially at 3000MB / s – almost seven times or almost six times that of a normal SATA-3 SSD.

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In gaming, unfortunately, this theoretical superiority of the new format over PC is hardly noticed – but that should eventually change with the new generation of consoles, as not only has Sony recognized the need to rethink with a view to more and more gaming. more assets more complex and higher resolution. Microsoft is also fundamentally rethinking how I handle file I / O operations for the first time in almost 30 years with the arrival of Direct X 12 Ultimate for Xbox Series X and PC. This not only integrates new graphics technologies such as ray tracing into Windows’ own API, but also brings DirectStorage, which – quite simply, the more complicated version can be read in the full specifications of the Xbox Series X – should allow Fast Fast NVMe to finally get the most out of it. At least that’s the idea. Richard Leadbetter from DF tells us that the old I / O system just wasn’t designed for such fast storage. “These are completely different technologies. 30 years ago, you couldn’t even imagine storage with almost immediate access. Today, however, that’s why it’s no surprise that Microsoft and Sony see a need for action.

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Of course, the Xbox Series X has other custom components, and the NVMe hard drives that are in the console are modified versions of the PC parts with additional hardware. And according to early reports, the PS5 even has a theoretical lead over the MS competition, so even the current PC-NVMe should at least lag a bit behind dedicated gaming devices from Sony and Microsoft. For example, Western Digital linked above is a good 2GB per second slower than the PS5 solution, for example. But NVMe drives with PCIe 4.0 and up to 7 GB per second are already available, although currently still expensive.

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Anyway: the direction in terms of load time optimization is correct, both console makers are taking the same path in the future and will pull game developers behind them, which in turn will be reflected in the design of many cross-platform games and also with NVMe memory on PCIe 3.0 The times when a character slowly crawls through a narrow space in a wall to give the engine a chance to recharge the space behind them are eliminated or shortened , just like loading screens disguised as long elevator rides or hyperspace hops. Diffusion of complex actives occurs faster and ugly LOD transitions are massively reduced.

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These are all things that not only fundamentally change the feel of the game, but also the way the titles are developed. It’s not uncommon for game makers to invest time in hiding load times. Think about Sony’s favorite example: Undoubtedly, there’s a lot of working time in Spider-Man’s underground rides, if you want to use fast travel, which can now be invested elsewhere. Expect bigger worlds that feel more like a single piece than ever before – and less time than we are busy expecting. Now the only question is to what extent developers consider PC drives with older hardware: will players with conventional hard drives in the future be the same type of brake as they have? been in many titles online for a long time?

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Either way, it’s exciting to finally be able to deal with a paradigm shift away from ever more opulent graphics, which could fundamentally change the way we experience our favorite hobby.

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